Perth-based clinical psychologist and network coordinator, Ms Naomi Ward, discusses the challenges and opportunities for helping clients manage the impact of major events.
MHPN-supported networks play a major role in helping mental health practitioners identify and discuss emerging trends in their local community.
Clinical psychologist and network coordinator Ms Naomi Ward is the director of a multidisciplinary practice, Child Wellbeing Centre, in Perth which focuses on child and adolescent mental health.
She says a combination of recent COVID-19 lockdowns and bushfires in January this year have put extra pressure on children, adolescents and their families.
While Western Australia has been isolated from the worst of COVID-19 and lockdowns because of the state’s policy about a “hard border”, Naomi says, children are exposed to media and real-life discussions about COVID-19, bushfires and other tragic global events. ‘All of which is making the world a scarier, unsafe place. Parents and carers may also be mirroring this anxiety and confusion’.
‘COVID-19 last year triggered a sudden increase in referrals for us as a practice and I am hearing the same from colleagues. Aside from the volume of referrals, we’re seeing an increase in children and adolescents needing support for anxiety and family stress. We’re also seeing a lot more complex trauma presentations in our clients’.
Naomi says her practice’s waitlist is two to three times the usual length which throws up the challenge of how to help clients cope while waiting for an appointment.
‘In my practice, we’re trying to connect up our clients with other practitioners where we are unable to provide immediate services. However, I suspect most other mental health practitioners are in the same boat as we are at the moment. We need to look at other ways that we can support clients’.
Being innovative in the face of greater community need will be up for discussion at the next meeting of the Midland Mental Health Network which Naomi coordinates.
‘I’m hoping that at our next meeting, we will be talking about innovative practice for supporting clients who may be waiting for services due to high demand. It’s also a chance for practitioners to network and let others know about their capacity for new referrals’.
Naomi described how in her practice, staff are looking at different ways to help clients while they are waiting, including:
offering more group-based therapy programs
providing single session therapy (once-off educational session)
making clients aware of internet and phone-based support services where appropriate.
Naomi enjoys having a space to talk with mental practitioners from other disciplines and learn about other perspectives.
‘It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day work. It’s actually very helpful to have time to take a breath; meet others who will understand the challenges that you face in your work; and learn about who’s who in the local area’.
She says the interdisciplinary approach to supporting children and adolescents can be especially helpful when working with a family that has complex needs.
‘The key here is a shared case management approach and clear roles. A really good example of where this is helpful is where we may have a family in crisis; and multiple siblings need support within that family structure. Then place that family’s needs in the context of the parents/carers having their own mental health needs, and that family is going to need comprehensive support, both from different disciplines and possibly agencies’.
Naomi says it’s also important for mental health practitioners to recognise the impact of COVID-19 on them and to continue practicing self-care.
‘Mental health practitioners can be vulnerable too, to the impact of COVID-19, both in the workplace and in our own personal lives. Self-care as a practitioner is so important in these current times’.
MHPN is proud to support interdisciplinary practitioners meet and share knowledge to build interdisciplinary practice; and overcome professional isolation.
MHPN supports hundreds of general and specific-interest interdisciplinary practitioner networks around Australia.